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The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 11

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Crop Conditions

Season is starting off like 2012. If you have records from that year you can compare this year to 2012. Interesting that wheat yields that year were about 5-year average, but average price was $7.74. Winter wheat – nitrogen spreading is going full out on fields that will be split applied. If I had good looking soft red wheat and on medium to heavy soil and just doing one application of N, I would get it done. Ground is dry. Compaction and crown damage to wheat plants will be minimal. It is something you can get done and out of the way. If it turns dry you will be glad you have N on. If it turns wet and you cannot get on the field, you will be glad you had it done. Most fields have red clover seeded. It is not too late to seed. Spring grain seeding has started slowly. Not sure what everyone is waiting for. In 2012 we had a lot seeded in March. In the late 70’s I remember a field seeded around March 19th. It was snowed on a couple of times and a lot of joking about it. It yielded great. March seeded spring cereals in 2012 yield exceptional based on one reader’s comments.  New seeding, I would like to get at it. One reader commented that when they seed mid-April the stand is better than seeding in March. I agree. But again, it is nice to get some of this work out of the way. There is a chance of more erosion on the March seeded fields. And yield will not be as good as with a mid-April seeding. But you must look at the whole farm yields. If you delay seeding now and things get backed up because of wet weather and you end up planting corn or soybeans later than you would like maybe you can sacrifice a bit of yield by planting some acres early.


Things to do this week.

1.     Check field perimeters for downed trees/branches.

2.    Check tile runs for blow outs.

3.    Check winter wheat fields for erosion and decide remedial action. Could also do a population count on your stand. This can help with other management decisions.

4.    Check forage fields for heaving or killed out spots. Should be very few of either.

5.    Double check all seed and decide where it will go.

6.    Make sure maps for variable rate seeding are ready.

Seeding spring grain. Time to get at it. Spring wheat benefits most by early seeding followed by barley and oats. But all of three benefit from early seeding. Planting now means grain fill will occur during an historically cooler period than if you plant later. (Also, more sunshine hours during peak grain fill). Straw will be shorter and less lodging. Harvest should be sooner and better chance to get a cut of forages if underseeded or a second crop of forage oats. Just do it.

What to expect the next month on wheat and early seeded spring crops. Expect wheat and any emerged cereals to be frozen. If not frozen then the weather will turn cold, and they will not look pretty. Expect to see purple leaves and even frozen (brown) tips on leaves. There will be a lot of talk and worry. Crops will all grow through this and 6 weeks later we will forget about the worry of frozen crops. If we get some snow no problem. This occurs many years. Alfalfa will have tips frozen off in some fields.

Should I use higher N rates and a growth regulator on wheat?

Probably a good year to be looking at this. Suggest you try an area with 30 lbs/ac more N than normal and use Moddus since it is the one that is being promoted the most.

Moddus is recommended to be applied at BBCH 30-39 which is the beginning of stem elongation until flag leaf stage. (The BBCH is like Zadok’s but different) [Does not matter why they are using BBCH instead of Zadok’s.] Use rate is 0.417 L/ac.

Question: My dairy nutritionist wants me to plant cereal rye after corn silage, harvest spring 2022 and then plant alfalfa. Good or bad idea?

Answer: Bad idea. Nutritionist is probably from the US or looking at US data that shows this forage is great for milk production. However, if you do this you have a good chance that alfalfa will not establish. Even if it does you will sacrifice yield because of later planting of alfalfa. Better option is to look for winter wheat acres in the area and plant them to forage oats and harvest those acres.

Navigating the Winter Wheat Herbicide Conversation

It is plenty early to be having the wheat herbicide conversation in my opinion, but that said I had a 15-minute call about it today. In recent years there have been several new winter wheat herbicides released in the Ontario market. Many of these contain the active fluroxypyr. Here is a summary of the various fluroxypyr products and where they might fit. If you have tufted vetch or perennial Sowthistle, you should be looking at these products. Each one contains fluroxypyr and then adds its own twist on how it fits into the weed control program.

Figure 1 - Ontario Registered Wheat Herbicides with Fluroxypyr

Authority Supreme plus Sencor

Is your retailer or crop advisor recommending Authority Supreme plus Sencor? Denis Rodet of FMC has forwarded this table to show the labelled weed control of tank mixing Authority Supreme plus Sencor.

Figure 2 - Authority Supreme plus Sencor Weed Control

Earthworms: summary of an article by Kahl and Johnson-Maynard University of Idaho

This summary is from Idaho but probably much of this information is applicable to Ontario.

1.     There are about 3,000 species of earthworms.

2.    In North America there are about 187 species

3.    Earthworm numbers are controlled by soil temperature, moisture, texture, and pH.

4.    Earthworms are hermaphrodites with functional male and female parts.

5.    They produce 3-100 cocoons a year. Each cocoon contains multiple ova.

6.    They are subject to predation by birds and other soil dwelling animals but live from 1-10 years.

7.     Three major classes, endogeic, anecic and epigeic.

8.    Endogeic species live in the top 6-8” of soil.

9.    Anecic species tend to be 3-6” long. They create middens which are small mounds of organic material and cast. Lumbricus terrestris is the common “night crawler” found all over the world.

10. The anecic species create pathways that can increase water infiltration.

11.  The epigeic class live and feed very close to the soil surface. Their shallow burrowing habitat makes them vulnerable to hot dry summer and tillage.

12.  Earthworms can invest up to 25% of the soil in the A horizon.

13.  Pesticides especially insecticides can decrease earthworm populations. Fungicides may affect the reproductive ability of earthworms. Sulfonylurea herbicides can affect populations. Shallow living earthworms are most susceptible to pesticides.

Should your seed response zones match your fertilizer response zones?

If you are variable rating seed, should your fertilizer zones match the same zones as the seed? I think they should. As at some point you will have a fertility component that you will want to match to the yield potential of how you are determining your seeding rate. There are areas within many fields that can support higher seeding rates but will not necessarily mineralize enough nitrogen to take you there.

There will also be areas within the field that can yield low (knolls and very wet depressions) but will respond differently to added nitrogen. See the nitrogen mineralization example below. Both lower yielding areas of the field, but one part of a field’s oat cover crop is super green (depression with lots of N supplier power) and the knoll has very limited N supply power. Note - both pictures are from the same field.

Picture 1 - Low yield, low fertility knoll
Picture 2 - Low yield, high fertility depression

Thoughts on variable rating seed

I recently gave a presentation on variable rating seed. There are two reasons to be variable rating seed. Reason 1 is to match seeding rates so that the final stand is close to the true yield potential for that soil zone/type (due to a combination for the interaction of plant genetics, water, fertility). Reason 2 is to adjust for seed mortality throughout the field.

Still not sold on variable rating seed. Today in your fields there is likely portions of the field being held back in yield potential. Both because there is too much seed and in other areas because there is not enough seed. Just adding more seed to improve farm profitability is not the answer. If you are flat rating 33 or 34,000 corn seeds/acre, I estimate that rate may only be suitable for about 30-40% of the total field area. The exact number is field and hybrid specific.

Question – Does streaming 28% UAN on wheat hurt it when it is below zero C?

Answer – If it does it is not worth worrying about. The leaves currently on the plant have been hardened off significantly since last fall and are not new plant tissue. I get more concerned when 28% UAN is applied on the 2nd pass in cold weather conditions on plant tissue that has not been hardened off. That will scorch the wheat leaves, and some of those leaves do contribute to yield. The ones currently on the plant after the snow leaves contribute a much smaller percentage to final yield.

Burning down cover crops prior to planting corn?

Burning down is my preference, just seems to cause quite a few less issues. If you are thinking of working the soil prior to planting corn, this is a must. If you are planning on no-till corn, it is likely preferable. I would not consider working down a heavy mat of cover crop in the spring. I cannot see any favourable outcomes from doing this.

Question – I want to no-till alfalfa into fall cover crop Oats, is there anything that would take out the chickweed/bird’s eye speedwell that is already there?

Roundup would be the easy answer. If that is not an option (which in this case it is not for several reasons), then Embutox/Cobutox/2,4-DB would set back the bird’s eye speedwell and ding up the chickweed.

Question – Is Spreading Manure on Winter Rye/Triticale for Green Feed a good use of the nitrogen?

My preference is to use commercial nitrogen for four reasons, 1) you can ensure the material is applied evenly and at a proper rate. 2) You can ensure the nitrogen releases in time for the winter forage crop to make use of it. 3) You can avoid running into issues with proper fermentation that comes with spreading manure on fields that will be then used for fermented feeds. 4) There is not any much soil compaction and tramping of plants.

Sulphur Response on Winter Cereals for Feed

If you are currently applying nitrogen to your winter cereal (cereal rye or triticale) or biannual grasses (Italian Ryegrass type) but no sulphur, you are likely giving up 3-5% in crude protein in the feed,  by only applying nitrogen. Comments according to Tom Kilcer with Advanced Ag Systems.

Question – I bought a farm, now what to do with an alfalfa stand that did not get a fall burndown?

Answer - My preference is as little tillage as possible. There are three possible options.

1)    No-till Xtend (Dicamba tolerant) Soybeans into the sod. Spray high rate dicamba plus glyphosate on the first pass. Another possibility would be soybeans with the Enlist trait, although I hesitate that 2,4-D choline will be as effective on alfalfa as dicamba.

2)    No-till corn if you have fertilizer on the planter that you can band a reasonable rate of NPK (not in-furrow). Likely need to spray 2-3 times with Roundup or at least once with Roundup plus group 4 herbicide to beat back the alfalfa.

3)    Spray off the alfalfa pre-harvest with 2x rate of glyphosate. Take off the hay. No-till white beans into the stand/spray pre-emerge herbicide. Likely will require 1 pass of Reflex in-crop to knock down the alfalfa. (Works best in 2800+ CHU areas)

Optimal Number of Alfalfa plant per square foot

Graphics from OMAFA’s - Publication 811 - Agronomy Guide to Field Crops.

Figure 3 - Alfalfa plants per Square Foot by Stand Age (Pub 811)
Figure 4 - Alfalfa Yield Potential by Stem Count Density (Pub 811)

Strip-till – Weed Control

A couple of scenarios I have worked out. One thing I have learned in working with Strip-till acres is that full width tillage does a lot of weed control first thing in the spring. And if you are not doing full width tillage, you need to adjust your herbicide plan.

1.     Fall Strips – If you did not do a fall burndown, you will likely have a flush of perennial and winter annual weeds to deal with in the spring. There will likely be less pressure of annual grasses and broadleaves, other than the planter pass, you will not be disturbing the soil in the spring. Focus on spending herbicide dollars on a spring burndown and consider using a pre-emerge herbicide that could make a 1 pass program for the season.

2.     Spring Strips – Again, if there was no fall burndown, you will likely need to spray off perennial and winter annual weeds first thing in the spring. The question is, do you do this before or after the strips. If doing it before, watch your residual herbicide selection. Products like dicamba or group 27s such as Acuron/Callisto/Converge XT/Engarde/Halex should not be worked into the soil prior to planting. Trying to do a 1 pass program may mean giving up some burndown weed control depending on how much soil covers the weeds that are up following application. If doing it before, you are limited to herbicide that can be used Pre-Plant-Incorporate (Primextra or Integrity).

3.     Fall Strip followed by spring strips – Again, some of the same issues with doing spring strips. Ideally a fall burndown would have been done, refresh the strips, then apply glyphosate with a residual herbicide to clean up for what is hopefully a one pass program.

“Even when you feel like trash, remember… it’s garbage can, not garbage cannot.”

– Oscar the Grouch